Sunday, December 20, 2009

Air Brushed Christians: a Word for the Holidays.

Our oldest son lives in Columbus, Ohio. A friend of his has a tough job: air brushing the pictures of the models whose pictures will be used in the catalogue at Victoria's Secret. Or whose pictures will be posted in the stores.

When I heard that, I wondered what constitutes a bad day for the company artist. I wonder if this young guy's wife understands when he complains about a long day...deadlines?

This may come as a shock to you, but these seemingly perfect women aren't perfect. The leaders of the company, though, want any imperfections covered over...removed.

Sometimes we are guilty, in the church, of airbrushing our lives. We want any sign of weakness or fear or failure removed. We do our best to hide all that. Not sure why we -why I- do that but I suspect it has to do with not trusting people to love us, or want to be with us, if they knew just how ragged around the edges we sometimes are. Truth is the temptation to airbrush the fears and sin and imperfection out of our lives is evidence of our lack of trust in God's grace. "How could a holy God want anything to do with a creature who has been known to yell at his kids, or who has trouble controlling his mouth, or can't get over the bitterness of a long ago divorce?" we think. So we airbrush. We hide the sad or scared or mean stuff.

I was thinking about that this afternoon. As we approach Christmas. A tv ad for Budweiser showed a team of horses pulling a perfect wagon through a gentle snowstorm. It showed a perfect white farm house with a perfect green wreath, with a perfect red bow, on the front of the house. We see these images of perfect holiday gatherings. Grandparents, aunts and uncles, parents and loving children, a well behaved dog wagging its tail to the beat of a Christmas carol. We see people in a warm home, gifts wrapped and piled beneath a tree, folks holding hands around the dinner table for prayer...and it all just seems so...perfect.

If you are thinking you are the only one in the world whose life is ragged, if you think you are the only one who gets overwhelmed or lonely during the holidays, I have news for you: few families, few relationships, and few holiday gatherings are as perfect as the idealized pictures show them to be. A lot of people get tired....during the holidays. A lot of people feel overwhelmed. A lot of people have moments of loneliness.

Two weeks ago I was coming back from a meeting in central Indiana. I called a person I love very much to tell them I was thinking about them. I called to check in on them. Our conversation went from bad to worse. At the end she was shouting at me and I was shouting back. "I called to tell you I love you!" I said into the phone. "Don't you get it?" She shouted back. I said, "This isn't good for either one of us" and I hung up on her. Twice...because she called back and started yelling again. I was driving through deep darkness, on a rainy night, in Whitley County. By the time I got home my body was humming...electric...with sadness. Disappointment. How can families and friendships get so sideways?

The dirty little secret is many of us, even in the Christian community, do our best to airbrush this stuff out. But it is still there...

Paul, in his letters, is so honest! He doesn't appear to be trying to airbrush the sin and struggle out of his life. In Romans 7 he talks about his struggle with sin. Paul looks at his heart, his soul, and describes what he finds as a war (:23) Then, Paul says God has the power -in Jesus Christ- to deliver him from that war. He begins the next chapter by saying "there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."

Maybe God loves us so much that we can stop airbrushing. Be honest. And let God's love do some deep healing.

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